Flanagan aims to complete Westmeath revival in style
They haven't quite completed a full 'zero to hero' story yet but, after finally breaking their infamous 15-game losing streak in the Allianz League, just one game stands between Westmeath footballers and promotion to Division 2.
"Yes and it's against near neighbours Offaly, which is my own native county, which doesn't help," said manager Pat Flanagan.
The naysayers were out in force when the Lake County lost heavily to Louth on Division 3's opening day. That extended their losing league streak to 15 games over three seasons, which didn't augur well for Flanagan, who took over as manager in the middle of the championship last summer.
The dismal sequence finally ended when they drew to Cavan next time out but for many that still wasn't enough. But victory over Tipperary in Semple Stadium and wins over Waterford and Limerick since have turned Westmeath's season around.
Only joint leaders Wexford and Offaly are ahead of them in Division 3, so everything now hangs on their final game in Mullingar.
"It's certainly been a topsy-turvy season but finally getting the monkey off our back against Tipp was a big help," said Flanagan.
He feels the defeat of their fancied U-21s in the Leinster semi-final has also been to the seniors' gain.
"We have seven U-21s in our panel so getting them back was a huge help because players like Ger Egan and Conor Lynam really balance out our team," he said.
"We've been without Dessie Dolan for a few games through injury, David Duffy has only been able to play 30 minutes for us and John Heslin has also only played one game so, given all of that, the lads have done really well."
Heslin, who is serving his second suspension of the season and is set to take up an Aussie Rules opportunity, is a big loss to Westmeath ahead of their deciding game, but Flanagan has managed to recruit some others this year, not least Brendan Murtagh, one of the county's most accomplished and seasoned hurlers.
"Brendan has always played football with The Downs and I approached him at the start of the season," Flanagan explained. "He played half a game for the hurlers last Saturday and then played with us the next day, which is fantastic commitment."
Murtagh was also one of three players -- along with Paul Greville and Dolan -- sent off on a second yellow card last weekend when Westmeath were reduced to 12 men but still managed to beat Limerick, which leaves their promotion hopes very much alive.